Public Release: 

Experts argue for the preservation and enhancement of US social insurance programs

New book analyzes the history, economics, politics, and philosophy of some of America's most important federal social insurance programs and finds that they are fit for the left and the right


Los Angeles, CA (November 14, 2013) Though their funding and implementation are hotly debated, From Medicare to Social Security, disability coverage to unemployment insurance, social insurance programs are central to the economic life of U.S. citizens. But how can support of these programs become a unifying agent instead of sharpening existing political battle lines? Social Insurance: America's Neglected Past and Contested Future, a new book by Theodore R. Marmor, Jerry L. Mashaw and John Pakutka, brings together philosophical, historical, and comparative evidence to frame social insurance as a set of policies that can be supported from both sides of the political aisle in order to reduce the impact of common threats to American economic life.

"American social insurance programs presuppose that you are entitled not because you are a part of the nation, but because of your contribution to the nation; fund¬ing is linked to earnings, and entitlement is defined largely by years of work. That the protection of social insurance--and the demand for its expansion--should be thought to be the distinctive position of 'liberals' is, to say the least, ironic," the authors stated. "That the reform of social insurance should be thought to be best accomplished by moving in the direction of market-like devices that shift risks onto individuals and families that are already vulnerable to the stagger¬ing economic uncertainties of a rapidly globalizing economy is, in our view, a serious mistake."

Touted as one of the best one-volume introductions to the American welfare state ever written, this new resource offers a clear intellectual foundation for social insurance programs by clearly explaining what they have and have not achieved while debunking their myths. The researchers assert that protecting social insurance and ensuring equality of opportunity are essentially the values about which Americans most often agree--both on the right and on the left. The book provides concerned citizens with a his¬torical basis that produces a unifying vision of American social insurance.

"Social insurance expenditures for Medicare and Social Security pensions alone make up a substantial portion of the federal budget. Nevertheless, unlucky Americans still suffer because our social insurance protections are incomplete and often meager. Furthermore, for the past two decades, even those incomplete protections have been under sustained political attack," the authors wrote. "We believe Americans have forgotten or never understood why, when, and where social insurance makes sense. This book aims to awaken that understanding in some and introduce it to others."

The authors investigate six major threats to family income that were traditionally addressed by social insurance programs including:

  • Birth into a poor family
  • Early death of a family breadwinner
  • Health problems
  • Involuntary employment
  • Disability
  • Outliving one's retirement savings

The new book provides a comprehensive understanding of these threats and explains how social insurance programs can successfully address each of them.

"The antidote provided here is first to see social insurance whole," the authors wrote. "That means understanding social insurance as a set of interventions designed to reduce the impact of common threats across each person's life cycle, threats that simply cannot be countered effectively by individual prudence and private markets."


For a free media copy of Social Insurance: America's Neglected Past and Contested Future by Theodore R. Marmor, Jerry L. Mashaw and John Pakutka, or to speak with one of the authors, please email

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